An autumn crocus. (Katya Katunchik/Flickr)

An autumn crocus. (Katya Katunchik/Flickr)

Deer Gardener: Putting the garden beds to rest

By Elaine Nyeholt

By Elaine Nyeholt

The colour scheme outside has changed since I last wrote. We are on the way home from Osoyoos as you read this, and the trees that are not blackened from the summer’s disastrous fires are lovely. It will take a lot of rain to correct the dryness, but it’ll be along.

Putting the garden beds to rest for the winter is easy, if you planted the few winter vegetables together. The rest can be covered with mulch or compost and blanketed with black plastic until spring. Let those worms do their work all winter and you will have a very nice bed ready to go come April. Be sure to anchor your plastic well — our winds are merciless.

Winter vegetables that do just fine here are sprouts, chard, beets, kale and next year’s broccoli (which can be seeded now). These ought to be grown in a spot that will not be covered with plastic, and therefore needs more weeding and/or mulch. If our winter is “normal,” these plants will withstand a few freezes, snows and thaws. After the amazingly dry summer, I have no inkling what kind of season awaits us.

Wait until the weather is frosty at least, before you trim back roses to prevent new growth that will weaken the plants. Some winters are so mild you just have to do it in January and see what happens. You can and should cut out weak shoots that sprout up from the base of the plant as these are suckers that will probably turn out to be wild roses.

Thinning out overgrown plants is a great project for October. Sometimes the perennials overwhelm their surroundings. I have several that need to be tamed, lovely as they are. Trade them off to neighbours if you can. This cleanup makes room for some new spring bulbs that are so welcome. I was disappointed by some bulbs I bought off the shelf this spring. They grew weakly and were not worthwhile. I will be ordering from one of the better-known bulb catalogues and getting fewer, but good quality bulbs. Lesson learned.

Miniature daffodils and grape muscari bloom nearly as early as crocus and primrose. They brightly adorn the walkway as a welcome sign for all. Planted now they will be a happy addition to your border plantings.

It’s time to plant Autumn Crocus (Colchicum) if you are inclined. These bloom within weeks of planting and give nearly instant gratification as the season progresses. They do not seem to reproduce particularly well, which may be why they are pricey. Colchicum returns without fail, and are carefree to grow. I planted some along the drip line of a large rhododendron and had to move them because they were overgrown within two years. Some better planning would have been good.

Soon the last grass mowing will be behind us, and it will be time to put all that type of equipment away, snug and dry for the winter. Do empty the gas tanks and clean off the blades and underneath of your mower and weed whacker so you don’t have to bring them to my husband in the spring because they won’t start! He is not bored.

Now I want to get my mind around to enjoying the fall, and looking forward to winter, instead if complaining about it, like I often do. Cozy days snuggled in my chair crocheting or looking at garden ideas for another year. Puttering around the yard picking up fallen branches and raking a few leaves. Perhaps the aroma of homemade cinnamon buns wafting throughout our home. That is winter – well it could be if I let it happen! As always, each day is what you make it. Enjoy.

Haida Gwaii Observer

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